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Ash Wednesday Reflection from Sister Nicole Kunze, Prioress

Ash Wednesday Reflection

February 14, 2024

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God. (Joel 2:12-13)

As we begin this Lenten season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, I wish to focus on fasting in this reflection. When we think of fasting, we often think of physical fasting – abstaining from a particular food or food group or drink during this season. Ever since we were young, we have likely been asked (or asked each other), what are you giving up for Lent? There is merit in this practice and I’m not here to tell you to discontinue it.

This Lent, I am using the book, A Different Kind of Fast by Christine Valters Paintner for my Lenten reading and reflection. In her book, the author suggests that by letting go or fasting from habits, activities or actions that distract us from our real hunger, we can focus on what is truly important. Paintner says, “The practice of fasting is about making more space within us to encounter our deepest, most radiant selves.” She encourages one to let go of the “deprivation mindset” regarding food or drink as that denial will not help us grow in holiness. “Fasting is ultimately a paradox of emptying out to be filled, paring back to receive a different kind of feast, one that nourishes our true hungers.” We know what it feels like to be in a cramped, overcrowded space and then move to a place that is much more open and spacious. It relieves an anxiety within us, and we feel more free. This same freedom can happen by letting go (or fasting) from our old habits that affect our focus and creating new space where we can let in new habits that are life-giving, energizing, and renewing.

In her book, Christine Valters Paintner offers seven habits or patterns to fast from in order to create a new life-giving practice. I will list them for you now:

· Fast from Consuming and Embrace Simplicity

· Fast from Multitasking and Inattention and Embrace Full Presence to the Moment

· Fast from Scarcity Anxiety and Embrace Radical Trust in Abundance

· Fast from Speed and Rushing and Embrace Slowness and Pausing

· Fast from Holding It All Together and Embrace Tenderness and Vulnerability

· Fast from Planning and Deadlines and Embrace Unfolding and Ripening

· Fast from Certainty and Embrace Mystery and Waiting

I invite you to take this short week at the beginning of Lent to reflect upon your habits or actions that distract you or are stunting your spiritual growth. What is God asking you to change in your life so you can create more space for Him to enter in? May God bless you and give you the strength to follow through on your Lenten practices.